Local Authority News
Following the freezing of some charges and suspension of enforcement for others during the lockdown period, The Highland Council has been following a phased return to normal operations since the 26th of June. Further details are given below.
The Highland Council is updating parents and carers of its position on early learning and childcare (ELC). In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Scottish Government removed the statutory requirement for Local Authorities to deliver 1140 hours of ELC from August.
The Highland Council is planning to re-open play areas across the region throughout summer. Advice was provided by the Scottish Government on 28 June as to the safety measures that should be applied.
Margaret Davidson, the Leader of the Highland Council has given her strong support to the efforts of the Scottish Government to obtain greater fiscal flexibility from the UK Government. The Scottish Government have sought flexibility to offset capital underspend against resource expenditure, more flexibility over resource borrowing and greater flexibility over the use of the reserve for capital.
The Caithness Committee met virtual today for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic and it's agenda focused on the actions taken by the Council and the third sector to deal with the effects of Coronavirus in Caithness. The Executive Chief Officer for Education and Learning, Paul Senior, gave members an update on the plans and preparations underway to prepare for the return of pupils and staff to Caithness schools in August.
Following on from the recent publication of Highland Council's Supporting Economic Recovery in Highland - A Guide for Businesses - the Council is announcing relaxation of some controls that will assist tourist accommodation providers have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. In recognition of this where there are specific planning and licensing controls in relation to occupancy, for example: a restriction on the occupancy of any caravan for a continuous 12 month period; or where conditions restrict occupancy for specific periods of time, ...these will be relaxed by the Council up to and including April 2021.
The Highland Council was one of the first local authorities in Scotland recognised to develop a Schools Digital Learning Hub, which provides a resource for staff, parents and pupils to support home learning. Prior to Covid-19, we had an estate of 27,000 Chromebooks that were already a part of our ICT in Learning Strategy.
Lesley, who previously worked for Hackney Local Authority in London, expressed how much she has enjoyed working for the Council. Lelsey started with highland council on 13 August 2019.
Earlier today (Wednesday 1 July 2020) members of The Highland Council's Economy and Infrastructure Committee had the opportunity to discuss (by video conference) progress made with the Corran Ferry Project which is reviewing the options for securing a replacement ferry and considering the way forward for the future operation and management of the service. The Corran ferry service has reached a critical point and strategic decisions need to be made.
As Scotland prepares for the easing of lockdown and the re-opening of the tourism and hospitality sector, The Highland Council's Environmental Health are advising holiday accommodation providers to make sure their private water supplies are safe to drink. A large number of self-catering and tourist accommodation in the Highlands are served by private water supplies and with these being closed during the lockdown period, the water supply system may not have been maintained and could create a risk to the quality and safety of the drinking water.
Following Scottish Government guidance on returning to construction sites across Scotland, works will be restarting on the EES:ABS scheme across the Highlands. In line with the guidance, contractors will be undertaking phased restarts and adhering to social distancing to allow workers to return to construction sites gradually while using measures such as hand hygiene.
Two prominent derelict buildings in Wick High Street are to be demolished following decades lying empty. Numbers 30 and 126 (known locally as Dominoes (the former cinema) and Sloans are to benefit from demolition and site clearance, before ownership is returned to the local community.
The Leader of The Highland Council has written to the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson MSP, raising her deepest concerns over Eastern Airways decision to withdraw their Wick - Aberdeen Service. The decision by Eastern Airways follows Loganair's earlier decision to withdraw its Wick-Edinburgh route, which now leaves Wick John O'Groats Airport with no commercial services operating.
Highland Council has produced a new video which shines a spotlight on how children across the region have been able to continue learning during lockdown. Last month the Council produced a video 'Learning During Lockdown' to highlight how teachers were able to continue to deliver education despite the closure of school across the UK.
£257.6 million to help tackle COVID-19 approved by Parliament. Almost £258 million of additional funding for vital local services, such as food provision for those in need, education and social care, has been approved by the Scottish Parliament.
Councillor John Finlayson, Chair of the Highland Council's Education Committee responded to the announcement today by John Swinney, Deputy First Minister on the return of education. "Today’s announcement by the Deputy First Minister that the planning assumption will now be for a full return to school for all pupils in August if it is safe to do so, is very welcome news for everyone and it reflects the aspirations that have been communicated to me over recent days by so many parents.
The Highland Council is inviting private landlords and providers of short-term lets, including Air B&B hosts who may be interested in leasing their property to the Council to get in touch. Chair of the Housing and Property Committee, Councillor Ben Thompson said: "The COVID-19 outbreak has affected all aspects of our daily lives and we have seen increased pressure on our homelessness service, including demand from the loss of tied accommodation in the hotel industry.
To support the economic recovery in the Highlands, the Council has today (Monday 22 June 2020) launched a guide for shops and businesses to assist them with their plans to safely welcome back customers. Following the overarching guidance provided by the Scottish Government, the Supporting Economic Recovery in Highland - A Guide for Businesses - contains lots of information, advice and support for shops, leisure facilities and other businesses likely to experience an upsurge in visitor numbers as lockdown restrictions are eased.
The COVID-19 small business and self-catering grant scheme, set up to help companies stay in business during the coronavirus crisis, has now paid out over £63 million to 5,892 Highland businesses. Councillor Trish Robertson, Chair of The Highland Council's Economy and Infrastructure Committee said: "Our staff that are processing applications are still working very hard and thanks to their efforts and to applicants for providing the correct information when they apply, the percentage of grants processed is currently at 99%.
Following the First Minister's announcement on Tuesday, 16 June 2020, eligible school pupils are to receive free school meals during the summer break to help tackle food poverty. In Highland, P1-3 pupils entitled to school clothing grants and P4-S6 pupils who are eligible for free school meals have been receiving £15 per pupil, per week, which is paid fortnightly using a voucher system.